Federal Water Tap, October 15: Reports on Western Water-efficiency Program and the Great Lakes

Three years into its agency-wide water efficiency and conservation program, the Interior Department has given itself a gold star and a pat on the back in an assessment report released last week. Ordered by Congress and shaped by Secretary Ken Salazar, the WaterSMART program is on track to meet its top goal of conserving 730,000 acre-feet of water annually by the end of fiscal year 2013, according to the report. Program-funded conservation projects have cut water use by an estimated 587,839 acre-feet per year so far.

Other program components include studies of water supply and demand for 17 western river basins, energy efficiency programs (acknowledging the link between energy and water), and a national water census.

Great Lakes
An Army Corps of Engineers study of invasive species in two of the nation’s major water systems will include conceptual designs for proposed technologies, cost estimates, baseline environmental and economic data, and an environmental assessment, according to an interim report released last week.

The final report, scheduled for release in December 2013, will assess options to prevent Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species from staking claim to the Great Lakes, via shipping channels connected to the Mississippi River Basin. The study website is http://www.glmris.anl.gov/

From October 16 to 19, workers will trawl the Chicago River and the North Shore Channel looking for Asian carp DNA in the waters, the Chicago Tribune reports.

EPA Watersheds Study
The Environmental Protection Agency reviewed watershed studies it completed in Arizona, California and Maryland to glean a set of best practices for researchers looking at the effects of climate change and land-use patterns on local ecology. The agency found that selecting the proper climate models and bringing aboard the most relevant stakeholders are essential.

Georgia Water Supply
Thanks to a court ruling and an internal legal opinion, the Army Corps of Engineers will expand the scope of the environmental assessment it is doing in conjunction with a revised water supply master plan for the contentious Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. The current master plan, serving Alabama, Florida and Georgia, was put in place in 1958 and did not include municipal supply as an authorized use–something a federal appeals court authorized in a June 2011 ruling.

GAO Reports
The Government Accountability Office released three reports on water and energy last week.

To improve its guidelines for reducing the amount of pollution that industry dumps into water bodies, the EPA should use better data in its initial screening phase and should also consider newer more advanced treatment technologies, according to the GAO.

In the energy sector, the GAO reviewed studies on the environmental and public health risks from shale gas and shale oil, and other unconventional oil and gas development. The GAO, which did not make any recommendations, said that the long-term risks are “unknown” because the studies did not address them and that the risks may change substantially from basin to basin because of geologic, geographic and demographic peculiarities.

Federal Water Tap is a weekly digest spotting trends in U.S. government water policy. To get more water news, follow Circle of Blue on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter.

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